New Leigh signing Peter Mata’utia has admitted he almost retired before joining the Centurions.
Despite being one of the star performers for the Newcastle Knights in 2017, the Samoan international had decided to quit the sport at just 27-years-old.
His decision to hang up the boots was with his family in mind. He had already decided it was time to leave the Knights, but having only recently moved from Wollongong to Newcastle, the centre didn’t want to make his family relocate once again.
However, as offers from Super League stacked up, his partner and team-mates convinced him to carry on playing.
But instead of packing his bags and moving elsewhere in Australia, he made the drastic decision to relocate on the other side of the world.
“Probably halfway through last year I started getting interest from Super League clubs,” he said.
“But to be honest I wanted to retire at the time and I’d made my mind up to retire so I wasn’t too fussed about the others.
“Just certain things weren’t happening and I just made up my mind that it would be my last year of professional footy. Thankfully I had some good teammates who really cared about what I should be doing and they convinced me to do something else.
“I knew at the time I didn’t want to stay at Newcastle and I didn’t want to pack up and leave for another NRL club as we’d just got back from Wollongong. I just didn’t want to move the family again and that was the biggest reason. It ended up coming to me that if I do move I should come over here.
“Towards the end of the season a few of the boys in my team convinced me to keep playing because I should be, and if I did move I should move to England because I’d enjoy the experience. I got convinced by them and my partner, she wanted to come and travel and see what it’s like too.”
Since then, he hasn’t looked back.
Despite a number of Super League offers, Mata’utia decided to join the recently-relegated Centurions. He’s adamant he’s made the right call.
“I had a good chat with Kez (Keiron Cunningham) and he kept going to my manager. That sort of meant a lot to me because he’s a St Helens legend for starters. When you have someone like that keep ringing you and wanting to get you to a place it must mean something.
“I actually heard Dez (Derek Beaumont) talk on Twitter. He talked about what it meant to him and the town to be relegated and a lot of fans were wanting him to drop Jukesy (Neil Jukes) as coach but he came out and said he’d stick by him.
“To me that meant he just doesn’t give up on anyone or anything when his back is against the wall. That’s the owner you want to play for and the organisation you want to play for.”
That said, Mata’utia has plans to ensure his time in England only involves one year of Championship rugby.
“I want to play Super League and this team definitely should be in Super League,” he said.
“The other thing is to give these local kids from Leigh a Super League team to grow up and want to play for. There’s nothing worse than growing up n a town and there being a team there that isn’t playing in Super League, because everyone wants to play Super League, to be honest. If we can get to Super League and stay there we could give this town an opportunity to keep their junior kids playing here and play for the team they grew up watching.”